ErmaThat’s what he asked me.

“Anything to declare?” asked the Canada customs official.

Such a loaded question! They should really consider rephrasing that standard question asked by border services agents of all international travelers. You’re asking a woman if she has anything to declare?!

Oh, do I ever!  Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about it! Indeed, I have something to declare!

I’ve taken a few days to reflect upon my experience and learning at a humour writers’ conference I recently attended. I now declare that I was deluged with new inspiration while at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held bi-annually at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. By the way, you may not know this but the word deluge is a French term for being word-swarmed. But you know, there are advantages to being deluged, or word-swarmed – in addition to all the mind-blowing quotes I garnered from the speakers, I was able to pick up a few gems from the attendees too. For example:

Boom Boom Boys:
File this under “It’s Not What You Think …”. Please just know that I will be petitioning Drum Corps International to reschedule their 2016 competition not to coincide with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Beta reader:
This is not the video player predecessor to VHS, but instead an indispensable trusted confidant who will read your work and provide you with much needed feedback before publishing (but not a professional editor, qually indispensable).

The FuckItBucket:*
I-am-so-done-tormenting-myself-over– useless -crap…

The Dayton Dribbler :
Not to be confused with the University of Dayton basketball team’s March Madness success, but rather the highly over-rated Marriott shower pressure.

The Quiet Zone :
Can we not all just agree that sleep is for sissies, retirees, and that man in 14C on UA4461? Also, is probably not the best gathering place for the Boom Boom Boys.

Ermatologist, Bombeckian, Bombie, Ermite, Bombette :
One of a massive throng of several hundred women (and eighteen men) ravishingly beautiful, startling witty and extraordinarily talented writers.


“Ma’am, anything to declare?” the customs official repeated.

I have words to declare, sir. Enough words to sustain me through many writing projects. 

And with that, my passport is stamped – a most noteworthy and emphatic endorsement of my efforts –  and I am on my way.

This post was brought to you by a deluge of words and inspired by an amazing coffee cup.


* Okay, look. I know I don’t usually swear on my blog, and actually rarely swear at all, but when I heard this phrase, I fell in love with it and can’t seem to stop thinking about it. And since I am now over the age of fifty, I can put ‘restraint’ in my FuckItBucket.

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.


For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

So, there needs to be a reason? Certainly not in my books, but in this hilarious book, Reasons Mommy Drinks, Lyranda Martin Evans and Fiona Stevenson (Three Rivers Press, 2013) give 100 reasons that Mommies drink, along with 100 cocktail recipes (seriously ladies, you couldn’t come up with 365?!) that are almost as funny as the motherhood anecdotes after which they were named. I highly recommend reading it (and copying down the recipes!).  It was a little tough reading a book about drinking during my annual month of detox, but then again, it was refreshing to recall all those ‘new mom’ experiences of new mothers – mostly because I’m well past that stage and can actually laugh at them now.

There is the cocktail aptly named “The Silver Scream” named after mommy’s first foray into humanity after childbirth at a Mommy and Me movie, or a yummy concoction called “A Mudslide” which follows a not so yummy experience with explosive poo.  Well, who hasn’t had an experience with explosive poo and who doesn’t need a drink after it? Of course nothing celebrates baby’s first steps like a drink called the “Walk ‘n’ Roll”, and nothing will restore your sanity after listening to children’s music all day, like the “Raffi-tini”, best served “with Baby Beluga caviar” – bwahahaha! (Oh, yes new mothers, you WILL have that song in your head for the rest of your lives).

The book chronicles the first 18 months of motherhood and though I am now 18 years into motherhood, I still remember all those crazy, sleep-deprived baby days – and how badly I wanted a drink!  Sadly, the book starts off with a series of mock-tails (buzzkill alert) until page 31, beyond the anecdotes of nursing.  And sadly that’s pretty much how motherhood started in real life too, wasn’t it? I wish this book had been around when my first born was 18 months old and my second was already 4 weeks old.  It would have given me great comfort – and great inspiration for cocktails – to know that, a) I wasn’t losing my mind, and b) I actually was losing my mind but I was in very good company!

The only negative I have about the book was the ridiculously small print size.  I don’t know my fonts – all I know is I needed my 1.50 reading glasses to read this book instead of my 1.25’s and that made me feel old. Feeling old sucks.  Feeling old makes me feel like making a cocktail…

The Old Fart Work of Art

Sparkling wine, Prosecco or champagne
Crème de Cassis

Pour a small amount of the crème de cassis in a chilled champagne flute
Top with sparkling wine then sit back and wonder where your teenagers are…

reasons mommy drinks

blissdomThis past weekend I attended BlissDom Canada 2013’s conference in Mississauga.  I know what you’re thinking – what an awesome name for a sexapalooza show – but it’s not what you’re thinking. For those not in Bliss-know, BlissDom’s aim is to gather together Canadian bloggers and social media experts to celebrate a community through creativity, change and business development.

Oh yeah, and there was lots of socializing with some pretty kickass loot bags too.

As a newcomer, I went there not knowing what to expect but with an open mind and came away with a whole lot more to think about than my aging brain could process in two days. I was serious about exploring what to do with my humour memoir-in-progress and I think the sum of all the advice and collective wisdom from everyone at the conference boiled down to this:  just write the damn book already!

Okay, I get it.

Luckily, in addition to those loot bags, I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of commitment to my project. What’s to be done about my book can truly wait until the book is actually finished being written.

Now, in addition to the extraordinary sense of community, phenomenal encouragement and inspiring speakers, it was also just kind of fun to be away from the normal routine of kids, jobs, school, hockey and housework for the weekend and meet new people.  Seriously, there’s nothing that can ignite your passion and spirit more than 400 people telling you that you have passion and spirit.

So why am talking about twerking?  Funny you should ask…

“What are you doing?!” asked my 13-year old daughter as I showed her a picture of me dancing at the final party at BlissDom 2013.  I told her I was ‘twerking’. She begged me to tell her I was just kidding.  Begged me.  Truth is, if I was twerking, I probably would be in traction right now, but I’m going to let her think I was twerking.  It’s fun to be away from the kids for a weekend.

I think I’m pretty inspired 🙂

BlissDom twerk

Seems I’ve been pondering effective communication quite a bit these days, more recently about at what frequency I should target my interaction with my children, and now today about my communication with my other half.

The other day I said to my husband, “Look, we need a new yew.”

And what he heard was, “Look, we need a new ‘you’.”

He stopped in his tracks, dropped the wheelbarrow, and responded, “What did I do this time?!”

Apparently I didn’t make it any better by adding, “Nothing. It’s not a big deal; I’ll just go out and get a new one”.

The look on his face was not entirely one of concern for our landscaping, so I then pointed to the dying perennial in our front garden.  “Look at it!  It’s all brown and disgusting!  I don’t want that to be the first thing people see when they walk up our front walk”.

I can only imagine what he would have thought had I made fun of the absence of green thumbs in his genes.

As I set to pulling out the old ‘yew’ from its roots, I got to thinking about how fewer the misunderstandings there are between my husband when I just text him; no verbal communication whatsoever.  Certainly the mix-up over whose ‘yew’ and who’s ‘you’ would never have happened if I’d just texted, “I’ve gone to the garden centre to pick up a new healthy green yew. Brb!”text talkOur textual relationship is pretty strong for a couple now married 22 years. Actually, it’s great in fact, especially when you consider that we only just got the ‘text talk’ maybe four or five years ago. And from whom did we get the ‘text talk’? Why, our kids, of course. IKR?! We rly nEded 2 b schooled 2 B kewl! We’re just amateurs but we text all the time now.

When we argue, there’s no eye rolling, no door slamming, no hanging up the phone, just a lack of signal (or at least that what we both plead). The texting naysayers will say we’ve lost that loving feeling but honestly it’s the most civilized form of communication we’ve ever experienced, except for the occasional premature autocorrect. If he gets bored with our routine, I don’t really care because I know our online personas are so reliable and faithful. There are just so many fewer misunderstandings. It’s not like one of us is from Mars and one of us is from Venus on this type of communication, we are both equally and joyfully inexperienced and experimenting.

Anyway, all is well now after I fully explained myself and my need for a new yew. I’m not sure if he was relieved or not.  Maybe he was looking for a new yew too.

I love my coffee just as much as the next mom, but was recently seriously turned off with the household task of coffee brewing. It’s not because I’ve been bullied by my kids who inundate me with meaningless (to me) statistics about the evils of caffeine, telling me it’s one of the top three most highly addictive drugs in the world (as if my demitasse dealer and I didn’t already know that!).

It’s not because I am growing concerned with the perils of coffee that is not Free Trade and the impact of my addiction on the economies of more than a few small developing nations (I’m on a first name basis with the Costa Rican Minister of Export).

No. I’m considering giving up coffee because I recently de-scaled my coffee machine.

I found this coffee machine de-scaling product in my pantry while cleaning out the stale chips.  And anyone who truly knows me knows that no potato chip has ever gone stale in my household.  Never, ever.  So it my afternoon project took all of 10 seconds and it was not long before I came across this mysterious package, and thought “What the heck? I didn’t know you had to clean out a coffee machine!”

So the adventurous one that I am, I followed the instructions as indicated.


As I poured out that first pot of my Great Canadian De-scaler Brew …

I just about tossed my tostidos in the sink! Holy putrid pot of puke!

From my beloved coffee pot which on any other day serves me my morning elixir of patience and perseverance, now spilled a light brown semi-solid, semi-liquid something interspersed with specks of old coffee grinds and a slimy film that made me think BP was done wreaking havoc on the Gulf of Mexico and now decided to flow unchecked into my white porcelain sink and down into my septic tank. I haven’t seen anything that disgusting since I ripped a Bioré deep cleansing pore strip off my nose! This brew was so repugnant I quickly looked around to make sure that Environment Canada (or the EPA) was not looking over my shoulder (and we know THAT was wishful thinking on my part too, for no one is looking over my should while I’m at the kitchen sink. Never, ever).

As I dabbed a cold compress gently to my forehead and cheeks, I focused on my breathing, and slowly I recovered.

“Are you okay?” my husband asked as he passed through the kitchen.

“Fine! Just fine!” I lied.

Not fine,” I thought to myself, “I’m totally going to have nightmares over this …” and I consulted the bottle once again.

“Repeat if necessary”

As I carried the no longer functioning coffee maker to the end of the driveway in the latest chic HazMat wear, I asked cheerfully to my homebrews, “Anyone for Starbucks?”

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Today I share with you a tale of a doomed relationship .

Looking back I guess I should have known.  All the signs of a deteriorating relationship had been there for months, maybe even years.  Maybe I saw them, maybe I didn’t.  I do know that I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, most of all myself.  As with many close relationships, I was blissfully unaware while “love” slowly slipped away.

At first, he just rescheduled a few of our dates.  Then, it progressed to his cancelling them outright without explanation.  Finding time to rendezvous was proving more difficult and onerous.  And when we were together, it was like he was really somewhere else.  Like so many other signs, I put this off also to his crazy schedule, and remained happy – grateful even – for the attention he did bestow upon me.  Still … there were some days he would barely look me in the eye, too busy with satisfying his own needs.  I slowly began to realize that all he saw was another woman.  I was just another woman.  Another woman for whom “doing the little things” was too much of a burden.

And so now I am faced with the grim and painful reality:  it’s time for me to find a new hair stylist.

I feel so naive. I’m not even sure how to go about this … what words to say to make it easier on us both. How did I not know that more than half of all relationships with hair stylists sadly end in split ends. This is all still fresh to me and a little hard for me to fully articulate my feelings, but this I know to be true:  I’ll be better off for it!  This is something I’ve put off for far too long.  Plain and simple, he no longer fulfils my needs either.  Instead of making me look like Meg Ryan, I look like Camilla Parker-Bowles.  It’s pathetic really; how much my own self-worth and acceptance relied on his judgment of me all these years.  Even more pathetic is the small fortune I’ve handed over to him, the mountains I’ve moved just to get in to see him, and the babysitters I have paid.  If my husband ever finds out… Well, then again, my husband is still barely speaking to me after I rescheduled our 21st anniversary dinner just so that I could take my stylist’s last minute cancellation (costing as much as our anniversary dinner).

A break-up with your stylist shouldn’t be messy, but it can be tousled.  I mean, it’s one thing to break up with my stylist, but I do now have to worry about the colour-lateral damage. I will no longer be able to show my face in that same salon again, so have to break up with my pedicurist and esthetician as well. These are the unfortunate side effects of a break – up:  it will sadly affect so many innocent nail polish colours.

And so? What now? How does one go about finding a new stylist? Is there a eHaircuty.com? LavaLocks.com? A stylist and his or her client are a match made in heaven, until dark roots do they part. I’m not sure if I can deal with an exasperated new stylist bending over me, prying for personal details like, “Oh my God, who did this to your hair?!”

No.  Maybe I should just stick it out.  Stay together with him for the sake of the highlights.  I’m so conflicted.  Someone please help me before I resort to blind appointments, clandestine one-afternooners, or an airport salon tryst [gasp!]!

I think need an intervention …

I hear there’s a new masseur at my salon …

Second palm tree to the right and straight on ’til morning!”
– Peter Pan’s directions to Neverland, amended by a dustbunny

I need sun. I need the warmth of the sun. I am cold and I am pale. I’ve been wearing black turtlenecks since November. My toes haven’t seen the light of day since October. My get-up-and-go just got under the duvet, and from where I can see far enough to the pantry for more potato chips. I still have cold hockey arenas to bear for another few weeks. You know what else? I haven’t shaved since September. There. I said it.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder is listed as a legitimate mood disorder listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and its symptoms include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, social withdrawal, loss on interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes and cravings for high carbs and difficulty concentrating. I think those also cover symptoms of prolonged motherhood, though they fail to include that mid-winter aversion to shaving.

Although mothers are found all over the world, SAD sufferers are predominantly found in the northern hemispheres where symptoms are the worst between November and February (in contrast to prolonged motherhood whose symptoms are year-round and the only known treatment is high school graduation).

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting”

My daughter's windowsill flowers waiting for sunnier days

One of the most prevalent and most often sought-after treatments for SAD is light therapy. For many – including me – this involves a trip down south and a drink with a little umbrella in it. However, I drew the shortest straw in the family vacation vote this year and we are NOT going south. In fact the GPS will probably not register anything remotely similar to “S”. We are heading farther North in my already too-northern hemisphere. While I may have had my fill of Old Man Winter, especially since he made February one day longer this year, the kids and my husband have not, and we are going skiing. Not quite the light therapy I had self-prescribed for my self-diagnosed SAD.

As my goal for 2012 is always to find the positive, and I know there will be a cozy fire, a nice hot tub and wine.

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces”

The cool thing about a ski vacation is that it is socially acceptable to spend extended periods of time hanging around in your underwear. So along with my wine, I’m packing my most sexy and enticing Hot Chillys thermal long underwear.

This ski trip may also delay the post-Canadian-winter leg shaving ritual a little longer, given the effective use of thermal underwear. I can also breathe a sigh of relief that the dreaded bathing-suit-shopping-trip is postponed a few more months, too.

But then there’s the hot tub. The hot tub is an issue.

A long day of skiing (or even a very short day) necessitates a trip to the hot tub. A trip to the hot tub necessitates a leg shaving. Well, actually necessitates a two-leg shaving. And not the cheater-shave either; the below-the-knees shave I do on a rare night out during hockey season that requires me to wear a dress and pantyhose. I need a full leg shaving. And I need a bathing suit. The last thing I want to do is go shopping for a bathing, right now. In addition to an extra layer of body hair this winter I’ve also acquired an extra layer of blubber, suffering through my SAD potato chip treatments.

I find I am in quite a quandary: hot tub = bathing suit = shaving. Then I come across a perfect alternative to a bathing suit:

A wet suit.

Thermal underwear and a wet suit.

I have now found a perfect alternative to shaving AND a surefire way to have the hot tub entirely to myself!

“How do you like me so far?”

I’m a weiner!

I mean, whiner (that’s actually true).

No! Wait!

Winer (that’s actually really true)!

Actually, I am a winner!

I’d like to thank God and the Academy …. Oops … wrong speech.  Wait a minute.

I’m thrilled, and very humbled, to reveal that both Annie who is Annie Off Leash! and Kelly aka Ahimsa Mama have so kindly presented me with the Versatile Blogger award, though I’ve been a little slipshod in acknowledging them for doing so. As a relative neophyte in this writing blosphere, I consider this a tremendous honour and I thank them for this tribute, and for their ongoing readership and support!  You should visit their sites (not now, though, keep reading).

In accepting this Versatile Blogger Award, I am to thank those who bestowed the award upon me, to divulge to readers seven things that most people may not know about me, and to pass on the award to 15 other writers whose blogs I admire, and therefore so should you.

First off, now that I’ve posted a Dear 16-Year Old Me letter, some of my secrets have come out of the closet (the rest should probably stay out in there at least for a while), however, here are seven things most people don’t know about me:

  1. I am a closet BeeGees fan (it’s true; RIP dear Maurice).
  2. A friend of mine and I won a High School Spirit Week cake decorating contest by decorating banner and beanie -shaped cakes in our school colours. We got our picture in the local newspaper. I have loved cake decorating ever since and recently made this XBox Controller-shaped cake for my son.  I swear my own birthday seems to come about eight times a year so I’ve been trying to forget them of late, but I know birthdays are uber-special to kids.  And so for my kids, I want their birthdays to continue being special (until they tell me otherwise)!
  3. I almost drowned off the coast of Cape Hatteras when I was about 6 years old having been caught up in the treacherous undertow. My father saved my life. I still love Cape Hatteras but have since held a healthy respect for the power of the ocean.
  4. Of the 48 years I have slept on this earth, I have had my own bedroom for all but 45 of them.  Seriously.  Sister, roommates, boyfriends, husband, children … the string of those that have slept with me since I was born is shocking.
  5. I was diagnosed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome a year into trying to conceive my first child. I should think that the fact that I now have 3 healthy children gives hope to those with PCOS who have been told they will never conceive, or will have great difficulty conceiving.
  6. I played the baritone and trombone in high school.  To this day, I don’t know what the song is about, but think I could still probably pull off Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” if I was drunk enough needed to.
  7. I lived in New York City… twice. While at Cornell, I did a 6-month internship for a restaurant company in 1986 and lived at the 92nd Street Y. After graduating, I returned to New York City and worked for my former boss at her new company for 6 months before joining Hilton.  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times … then the best of times once again!  Scariest and most awesome city in the world!

So either these 7 things will endear me to you, or just explain a whole lot!  Moving on …

Now for the fun part:  I want to share  15 wonderful blogs that also deserve this award and ones that I hope you will soon visit.  You might notice my list is female-dominated – that’s just the way it is.  I also know many of them (most of them, in fact) already proudly display their Versatile Blogger award, but you will certainly not be disappointed in the time and attention you spare for their prose.

  1. Bella gives us One Sister’s Rant
  2. Brenda describes to us her Passionate Pursuits
  3. KG tells all in  My Sweet Cheap Life and inspired me to dive into the writing world, blog first.
  4. Elizabeth is Yo Mama
  5. You can Find Catharsis with Laura
  6. Monica’s weaves a Tangled Web
  7. The The Gourmand Mom can cook and be a great mom
  8. June is holding The Neurosis File
  9. Meagan is Choosing to Grow
  10. Dani is The Girlfriend Mom
  11. The Mama Wolfe teaches us
  12. Amber shares with her Crappy Pictures
  13. Brianne reminds us of the Presence of Magic
  14. Tracy is Lost In Suburbia
  15. Read the writing with the Sarcasm Goddess

Thanks again, Annie and Kelly for this award, and to all of you for reading!

Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin.  This is my fourth piece … Preservation!

Here goes:


On the Ninth Day of Pumpkin …

Mother Nature is going to help me look years younger this Halloween.  Everyone else in my life is bent on doing the opposite, so I’m counting on her.  I’ve been giving a great deal of thought and attention lately to finding more natural, organic and ethically manufactured skin care products, given that my pores are just soaking this stuff up.  My sister is currently working a project which may, in fact, make these products a little more accessible, but until then, I’m doing a little of my own homework … and handiwork.  So before you let those teenagers smash those pumpkins all over the driveway, save them, and consider my next installment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin:  pumpkin facials.

Pumpkins are high in Vitamin A (good for skin healing), Vitamin C (a good anti-oxidant) and Zinc (known for its healing powers and as treatment for acne).  No, that’s not me in the picture, though I wish it was.  Next time you’re in the mood for a luscious spa treatment but have no time, no energy and no money, give this a go (oh – and try not to eat it, ok?):


Basic Pumpkin Facial Masque (credit to  Care2MakeaDifference):

2 teaspoons cooked pumpkin, pureed (one pumpkin should yield a year’s worth, no?)
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon milk 

For dry skin, add ¼ teaspoon heavy whipping cream

For oily skin, add ¼ teaspoon apple cider or ¼ teaspoon cranberry juice

Combine the ingredients you need and apply to your face (not to your mouth, though I know you might be tempted), avoiding the eyes.  Leave on for 10-15 minutes.  Relax.  Go scare the poop out of your kids or whoever just rang your doorbell.  I just wonder if this will all still work with all that melted candlewax and tossed candy wrappers, I find in my pumpkins the morning after Halloween?  Whatever.  Rinse with warm water … and voila!  Freddy Kruger!  Oh…wrong movie.  Oh well.  Enjoy!  You look marvelous!

Next up for the Eighth Day of Pumpkin … random factoids.

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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